tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera October 1, 2015 1:30am-2:01am EDT
>> i'm ali velshi. "on target" tonight, how innocent americans tonight could end up labeled terrorists, turning their lives and livelihoods yum side down. upside down. the united states announced sanctions against five groups of people across the globe, connected to i.s.i.l, at a counterterrorism summit in new york, president obama said, part of america's commitment to use all means
possible to get rid of i.s.i.l. >> we are harnessing all of our tools, military intelligence economic development and the strength of our communities. now i have repeatedly said that our approach will take time. this is not an easy task. >> reporter: now the u.s. often harnesses economic tools to target governments traffickers and individuals suspected of threat thing national security. back in 1950, the government set up ofac, since the 1970s ofac lists sdns that the u.s. has targeted with sanctions, the executive branch has the power to choke the finances of anyone on the ofac list.
the number never rose above 100, since 9/11 the list shot up to 6,000. the list got so much bigger because president bush required the government to add names to the ofac list, mistakenly ended up on that list, normally, that would be headache enough, just imagine ending up on a no fly list because of a mistake. but it can be passed, anyone whose name is on the list whether mistakenly or not, can be feflt blac effectively black listed
are duarte geraldino has the story. >> you were totally qualified to become a electronic engineer? >> they were entry level positions, i exceeded their minimum requirements. >> when amit patel, had a 700 credit score amit was looking forward to moving out of his parent's home and into a place of his own. but like his job search things weren't so easy. after being denied his dream apartment, he asked the landlord why. as an answer, the landlord forwarded the credit report. >> what does that say? >> terrorist. >> has your name, one letter off, saying you oar terrorist
from north carolina. >> that is not me. my thinking is, what is going on here? who is running this report? what is happening? i was being labeled a terrorist in america. i've never been to these states. terrorist. if you look at my resume and what i've done in my life. >> the tri treasury office of known as ofac, has emotional 6,000 names and aliases and companies that are not allowed to do list. in fact, businesses have to check the list before any credit transactions. what is missing from this form that signals to you they're missing up? >> my middle name. >> here is amit patel's troubles began, his first and last name match amit
amit patel. >> they use made this conclusion without checking social security numbers. how common is your name? >> a fairly common name in the indian culture. >> do you think your name was edward smith you would be in this situation? >> i don't believe so, no. >> he isn't alone. the treasury department admits the list l generates false positives but won't admit how many times people have been caught up on the list. >> anyone caught who appears on this no-buy list? >> we have evidence that the list is effective or has been effective. >> rose's organization has put out two reports in the last two years documenting that dozens of cases of consumers who were denied homes health insurance and even the purchase of a
treadmill because of an ofac alert. >> we have no idea why someone ended up on the list. so the decision to place someone on the list occurs behind closed doors. there's no notice to the person once they end up on the list. and they have no opportunity to present a defense. all of your assets are frozen. and then you're forced to do the legwork on your end to figure out what is stopping your access to your funds. >> what about the whole notion of innocent until proven guilty? >> i would say the fundamental values we have in this country of innocent until proven guilty, of due process, none of that has any bearing whether it comes to this list. >> there are so many cases of innocent people being prosecuted that a cottage industry of attorneys have sprung up across the nation defending innocent people. in arizona, grandmother sandra cortez was detained hours after trying to buy a car.
her name showed up on an ofac report naming her as a much younger woman, san cra cortez. sam k ubanny, a man 30 years his junior solely because the two shared the same middle name. and in texas, jose luis zamora was confused with jose zamora a drug trafficker. it points the finger at the matching data, transunion, among the agencies that get paid to search the list and supply information to lenders. >> the companies that give you a credit score. >> absolutely.
sometimes it can be incredibly stigmatizing because people are told, you share a name with a terrorist, we are told we can't do business with you. >> how can i get off this list? >> there is a link on the website, if you click challenging your name on the list, you can send the company an e-mail stating why you should be off the list. however there is no time limit for their response. >> essentially a death sentence >> absolutely. this is the way of strangling the resources of many individuals. some who arguably through no fault of their own, ended up on a list unjustly. >> credit bureaus say they have to cast a wided in because companies face fines up to $10 million or jail time if they do business or hire someone on the list. >> it was a little heartbreaking to find out this might be the reason why i was unemployed for two years. >> is this nightmare over for
you or does it continue? >> it's definitely still ongoing. i mean every time you apply for a background check that thought still comes on your mind, they might run it through transunion who might make another mistake, your future is in the hands of annal agency who is doing their reporting incorrectly. >> reporter: amit filed a lawsuit against the company, but they are left fending for themselves. >> i'm still worried about getting a lease or putting my name on a rental agreement. it always halts you. >> do you have documents on you just in case you are pulled over, just in case you are detained? >> what can you carry around proofing you'rproving you're no? >> the fbi had a mole an informant inside of kind hearts as an employee. the informant that the
could find your assets frozen by the government. now we'll introduce you to two brothers, the treasury suspected the charity of illegal activity. duarte geraldino has their story. >> red cross, kind hearts, are some of the charities established in the united states. >> the stated goal of kind hearts was to be a charitable humanitarian development entity which would mean it would be a vehicle to help needy people around the world. >> february 19th, 2006, after helping tens of thousands of people, without warning, the u.s. treasury pad locked the doors of kind hearts and showed up at the home of the co-founder khalid smiley. >> he was ready to go to work and fbi and treasury department agents knock on the door and
they say that they're there to search and they give him paperwork, he picked up the phone and called me handed the phone over to an irs agent, who said no worries, we're here we want to close the offices down and then we'll leave our card and then you can communicate with the department of treasury to see what the next step is. i said okay can you please leave the paperwork leave the warrant and paperwork and leave the charges if there are any before you leave. he said there are no charges. there is no warrant. we're just here under the executive order. to close down this charity and freeze its funds. >> soon after the kind hearts charity was put on the little known hadac list, a division of u.s. treasury that has authority to freeze assets of individuals and groups suspected of drug trafficking or terrorism. kind hearts happens to be a muslim charity. all of kind heart's
funds were frozen, its name was publicly listed as a terrorist group. >> it was to publicly taint its reputation as a sponsor of terrorism. without any evidence whatsoever. it's unconstitutional, it's unamerican, it's undemocratic and it has to be stopped. >> we do know that of the numerous u.s. based charities on the list 80% of them are muslim. >> rose khan is with the charity, how ofac's list is assembled and enforced. >> we know it serves as a distinct purpose. but the way it is getting implemented sorely undermines our civil liberties. everything happens behind closed doors. we need to determine what places someone or some organization on
the list, we need to create a challenge for someone's placement on the list and this whole thing needs to be significantly more transparent. >> we reached out to the department of treasury and it sent us the following statement. every destination i designation is satisfied by necessary criteria and this evidence is applied at mum layers in the u.s. government. >> formed in january 2nd, 22nd, four months after 9/11. >> you knew they would be scrutinizing your organization. >> we knew there were constitutional protections, i was an attorney and we were there every step of the way. >> they were trying to find a way to choke the terrorists. so do you object to the process or the intent? >> the process. kind hearts received no process i'll just tell you that because no process
existed. muslim americans, including myself, and you know, during this interview right now, when asked questions like this, believe unfortunately that they have to kind of justify their beliefs. >> kind hearts couldn't get access to the evidence against it. >> it didn't get approval of of a judge to sees anything. arbitrarily. there is no way for kind hearts to ask for appeal or review or reconsideration by any independent tribunal. i personally submitted a request to delist a request for reconsideration because i was following the rules that were given to me. >> how long did it take them to get back to you? >> two years. >> without the ability to properly finance a defense the brothers turned to the american civil liberties union for help.
>> we were let down not by other people but by our own government. >> six years later, they found out just how little the government needed to shut down their charity. >> we discovered later that the fbi had a mole, an informant inside of kind hearts as an employee. the informant that the government placed in kind hearts to spy on kind hearts for four years. he wasn't able to come up with information on kind hearts. >> in its statement to al jazeera the department of treasury freely admits it choked kind hearts out of existence because it believed that kind hearts was engaged in illegal activity. this resolution assured that kind hearts would not be able to resume its activities. justified in light of the evidence that the organization provided support to hamas. that's the palestinian group designated as a terrorist group by the united states government.
treasury went on to say every court that has ever considered a blocking designation has upheld the action. every court except one. an ohio judge eventually ruled that ofac violated kind heart's fundamental right to be told of what basis and shut down its operation. basically, the government violated the charity's fourth amendment ride to due process. but the government couldn't bring back its reputation. >> it delisted kind heart but by that point the impact had already been felt of being placed on the list. and no, ofac has not adopted any change to its regulator features since that delisting. >> kind hearts kindly sent the
money to the people it was meant to be served but kind hearts never opened its doors again. >> nine years later we still don't know why the government's version we were shut down. what was the reason that we were shut down? >> duarte geraldino, al jazeera, los angeles. >> well, there's no question some people in organizations ended up with a raw deal in all of this but coming up i'll talk to a man who says you don't want to fight terrorism without this black list. >> mdma helps with the therapeutic connection. >> exclusive access to the experimental tests. >> our fears are dancing between us. >> techknow's team of experts show you how the miracles of science... >> this is what innovation looks like. >> can affect and surprise us. >> i feel like we're making an impact. >> awesome! >> techknow - where technology meets humanity.
>> we're back talking about the u.s. government so-called no-buy lists, we're referring to the list of specially designated nationals, sdns kept by the office of foreign assets control, ofac for short, the organization, suspects on the list can have their assets seized and their ability to have assets curbed. the danger of the ofac list is that it can effectively deny someone's constitutional rights on the name of the war on terror. adam smith was a senior advisor to the director of ofac from 2010 to 2015, he's now with the
law firm of gibson dunn and crutcher. he insists ofac is a critical part of the fight against terror and keeping americans safe. adam thank you for joining us. i've got the list in front of me with over 6,000 names. the good news is this list is public, then can go on the government website and see this list. >> that's right. >> there are many parts of the process leading up to a name being added to this list that are absolutely secret. it's hard to find out why people are on it or how they get put on it. do they need to be notified that they are informallily being added to it? >> the challenge ali, thank you for having me here, if we were to notify them we would limit the impact of being listed. what the most impactful is that
your assets are frozen, if the terrorists could would know about that you would have huge asset flight and the ability to control those assets which is the fundamental goal of the program would be limited. and frankly these companies that use the list i think that is the problem. this story that you told about mr. patel whose middle name is the wrong initial, the grandmother in texas i think it was was being confused for a drug dealer, this is a mistaken use of the list. the most important part of the list is not the names but the identifiers, the things that make sure those are the right names, not the wrong mr. patel but the right mr. palt who is a palt but pealt but the patel, but . >> shutting down these organizations? >> right. the story that this tells which
is the right story legally, they are freezing things rather than seizing them, there is actually no pure deprivation of property, you maintain the bank account and interest payments into the banbank account, that's cold comfort to those who have seized property. >> if i would have a problem paying my rent and doing my stuff, is there some way maybe that ofac should be looking at saying there's a reasonable time period in which they should be able to respond and resolve issues? >> sure, i mean ofac is a part of the government so obviously it is always stretched financially and resource-based and i can assure you in the cases of mistaken identity, it happens incredibly rarely because of this identifier, people work verve hard to make sure they got it right. outside individuals impacted,
who cares to get it right better than ofac does? the vast majorities of sanctions don't even impact u.s. persons per se, they impact iranians and their desire to make nuclear weapons or drug dealers or terrorists. not on u.s. persons per se. the visa vee are transunion or experion, creating other matches that don't exist. >> as a lawyer does it trouble you that this may seem like a target to people whom the government is not able to pull a legitimate case around, i look at amit patel, if we think this guy is a terrorist why don't we roll up a car and charge him? why are we denying him the ability to finance a
treadmill or rent an apartment? >> i guess the question is whether you are really working around the system. the government is very incredible and many tools in the government arsenal are powerful, can they be muz misused, of course. it doesn't matter that mr. patel or people like him aren't wrapped up in things outside the u.s. government. >> i think we're in agreement on that, the list may not be all that wrong, but these subsequent users of the list seem to be making mistake. was there discussion of going out there and regulating house regulating how the list is used so the transunions and equifaxs of the world cannot miss use those
lists. >> we could get questions from those transunions of the world, albeit banks, the wrong middle initial or the wrong spelling as you mentioned, we could correct the record then. what a big thing ofac, we do a big part of what they do. >> adam, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> adam smith is a former advisor to the senior officer of ofac. that's our >> protestors are gathering... >> there's an air of tension right now... >> the crowd chanting for democracy... >> this is another significant